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The High Cost of Medical Practice Staff Turnover


At many medical practices the risk of employee turnover is high. Here are four ways practices can better retain staff.

Have you calculated how much staff turnover costs your practice? You might be surprised by the numbers.

The Center for American Progress recently estimated that turnover costs businesses about 20 percent of a position's annual salary. The public policy research and advocacy organization based it's analysis on a review of 30 case studies from 11 research papers.

Why is turnover so expensive? Costs associated with it include recruiting to fill a vacated position, training a new hire, and a drop in productivity after a position is vacated and until a new hire is up to speed. 

As many practices ask their staffs to take on more responsibilities (due to efforts to increase visit volume and attempts to operate with fewer staff members) it's growing more critical for practices to step up employee retention efforts.  Overburdened staff, of course, increases the likelihood that staff will seek employment elsewhere.

Making matters worse, due to declining reimbursement and increasing overhead, many practices can't increase staff pay to align with additional responsibilities.  A third of the nearly 1,000 respondents to our 2013 Staff Salary Survey said they have cut or frozen salaries at their practices in the past five years, and a majority said they have no plans to give raises in 2013.

Here are some ways practices can increase staff retention despite these challenges:

1. Foster interests.  Identify what staff members find most fulfilling, then foster and build on those skills. That way staff members feel more committed to and engaged with the practice. “If I come in and enjoy my job I’m going to care about it, the time is going to go by quicker, and I’m going to get more job satisfaction and go home at the end of the day feeling good about what I did,” medical practice consultant Charlene Mooney, of the Halley Consulting Group in Columbus, Ohio, recently told Physicians Practice.  The best way to build on staff members' skills? Ask what they would like to get more involved in, said Mooney. "A lot of times people know what they would love to do and if it’s something that is attainable, we see what we can do to make it happen."

2. Let go. Retaining poor performers increases the likelihood that your strongest performers will seek employment elsewhere. Carol Stryker, founder of Houston-based medical practice consulting firm Symbiotic Solutions, recently told Physicians Practice that after repeated attempts to correct poor performers, practices should cut ties. “If I’m doing a good job, and my reward for doing a good job is I have to do my job and somebody else’s too, that doesn’t make me want to stay there,” she said.

3. Utilize fully. Ensure you are using staff to their highest level of license. That way staff will feel more challenged and engaged. When assessing whether responsibilities align with skills, pay close attention to the roles of the physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) in your practice. “We continue to see people hire PAs or NPs and then have them working the level of an RN,” Karen Zupko, president of Chicago-based practice management consulting and training firm Karen Zupko & Associates, recently told Physicians Practice. “We see in other practices an RN doing what a medical assistant could do.”

4. Hire right. Take the time to hire the right individual for the position from the start, as that will help decrease the likelihood of turnover later. “When people are short-staffed, they think anybody with a pulse will do just fine, and that’s absolutely the wrong way to go,” said Stryker. “The thing physicians can do that helps them most is to get the right staff in the first place.”

For more tips on reducing employee turnover at your practice, click here.

What staff retention techniques have worked at your practice? Share them below.

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